During April, the Rocket Yard focuses on the importance of backups to an overall data security plan. Previously, we discussed how to use the Time Machine app built into OS X to easily and quickly begin backing up data on your Mac. Just last week, we focused on online cloud backup services and their importance to a redundant backup strategy. Today we’re looking at another key piece of a backup plan; having a bootable backup.
While Time Machine and online backups are incredibly useful for restoring lost data, they both require one thing — working, bootable storage in the machine to be restored. If the built-in drive in your Mac fails completely, there’s no way to use the machine unless you happen to have an external drive that has the necessary files on it to be used as a boot drive. Fortunately, it’s quite easy to create bootable backups that can be used in an emergency until the primary built-in drive is replaced.To begin with, you’ll need an external disk drive with about the same capacity (or more, for growth purposes) as the one built into your Mac. For most of the MacBook line, OWC’s Mercury On-The-Go Pro external drives (see image above) are a solid solution, as they’re bus-powered by USB 2.0 or 3.0, compact enough to take on the road, and have capacities of up to 2TB. To top it off, they’re available for as little as $59.99 — inexpensive insurance!
Desktop Macs usually have quite a bit more storage built in, so a larger drive is perfect for creating your bootable backup. The Mercury Elite Pro mini drives start at just $89.99, in capacities from 500GB to a spacious 3TB. My bootable drive of choice for my 27-inch 5K Retina display iMac is the OWC Mercury Elite Pro (photo below), which comes in capacities up to 6TB in size. That 6TB drive won’t break the bank, either — it’s available in a USB 3.0 version for just $367.99.Whatever your choice of drive, it’s now time to consider software that allows you to make a bootable clone of your Mac’s drive. Here are two popular apps with a good track record — Carbon Copy Cloner (US$39.99) and SuperDuper! ($27.95).
Each app approaches creating a bootable backup in a similar way. First, the app makes a bootable clone of your Mac’s primary drive so that it’s identical in every way to that drive. Next, the app offers a way to make ongoing backups when your Mac is idle that just back up any changes that are made — new files are added, deleted files are deleted. What this means is that the bootable clone and your Mac’s internal drive are identical at least once a day — in the worst case, you may lose just a few hours worth of work, and if you’re using other backup methods that gap shrinks to minutes.
Booting from a bootable backup is quite simple; reboot your Mac while holding down the Option key. Icons showing all available connected drives appear on the Mac screen. Use your mouse, trackpad or keyboard arrow keys to highlight the backup drive, then press the Return key. It’s that easy.
Covering all of your bases
Using a Time Machine backup, an online backup service, and a separate bootable backup, you’re covered for most contingencies. Time Machine can help you recover from corrupted or inadvertently deleted files and can work well to reload a Mac that’s having issues, a bootable backup is useful when a drive crashes in the midst of a busy work day (and aren’t they all?), and online backups can save your bacon in case of a disaster.
Next week, we’ll look at keeping your mobile data safe.